Interior Minister Investigating Legality of ‘Khmer for Khmer’ Plans

Interior Minister Sar Kheng said Monday that his ministry is looking into whether political commentator Kem Ley’s plan to establish hundreds of small political parties before the 2017 commune council elections is legal.

Speaking at a ceremony at the Interior Ministry, Mr. Kheng noted that only about 40 parties are currently registered in the country and said he had asked his officials to look into the plans of Mr. Ley’s “Khmer for Khmer” political reform group.

“There is one formula…by which people went to create small parties in local territories and then bring them to form as [one party], which is a movement being led by some group of intellectuals [in Cambodia],” Mr. Kheng said.

“We are also keeping track of this to know whether it is legal or illegal,” he added.

Mr. Ley’s group, which has been accused by the opposition CNRP of trying to split the anti-CPP vote to help the ruling party, says it hopes to incubate parties of 80 or more villagers in as many of Cambodia’s more than 1,600 communes as possible.

Mr. Ley said Monday he welcomes Mr. Kheng’s investigation.

“We welcome all the responsible institutions or local authorities to follow up on all the processes of the establishment of local parties,” Mr. Ley said. “Article 9 [in the Law on Political Parties] indicates clearly that 80 people can establish one party, inform the Interior Ministry within 15 days, and then do politics.”

“The second step is that they must find 4,000 members,” Mr. Ley added. “We establish in the local communes, but to find 4,000 they have to form alliances. Ten or 20 communes can come together to form an alliance to register as one party.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen last month defended Mr. Ley’s plans to create micro-parties, days after opposition leader Sam Rainsy attacked the plans as another trick of the ruling party.

“Even though this is the political right of this intellectual group that is working to form a political party, they want to prevent them, meaning that [the CNRP] attacks this group, me and the CPP,” the prime minister said in a speech.

“Let them form because the government is open. You don’t hold power yet but feel afraid.”

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